Left Challenges Authoritarianism
By Debasish Chakraborty
AS the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata turned into a sea of humanity, splashed with crimson red all over, roaring slogans reverberated in every street leading to the ground, even the Ganges became red with streams of boats carrying hundreds of people, the question emerged, how this ‘miracle’ was made possible.
Even the staunch anti-Left media was forced to admit that the Left Front rally on 9th February not only surpassed in its size and spirit the two earlier rallies in the same ground in the last ten days but also was the largest the city had seen in at least two decades. This has happened despite terrorisation, life-threats, obstacles created by the ruling party in every step. This was not a usual rally; it was the defiance of an authoritarian regime, an outburst of anger, a collective determination to break through darkness. Spring has just started to bloom in flora and fauna of Bengal, the rally was a festival of courage.
It was not ‘miracle’, it simply proved, once again, how deep the roots of the Left are in the society of Bengal.
Many came from terror-stricken areas in unique ways, escaping the vulture eyes of the goons of the ruling party. Some, from East and West Medinipore districts started a day earlier, individually and then met somewhere to march to Brigade. From Bengal-Jharkhand border areas, the people came without any external sign that they were moving towards Kolkata. On the day of the rally, buses carrying people were forcibly stopped in many areas in Burdwan. The people either chased the hoodlums or just shifted their journey through trains to finally reach the rally ground. Stories of distinctive methods and bravery were abundant. These struggling people gathered more confidence, more courage to fight back the evil forces that have gripped not only the political power but also the socio-cultural fabric of Bengal.
On 30th January, Trinamool Congress held the rally at the same venue where Mamata Banerjee avoided all important issues of the state and gave a call of “Delhi Chalo”, without any clarity with whom she wanted to go with. Five days later, Narendra Modi held his first public meeting in the same place and proposed the formulation of “Mamata in Bengal, Modi in Delhi”. The political message was not that secret: tacit understanding between BJP and TMC was in the offing. On 9th February, Left Front leaders clearly gave a call of a government at the centre which would be based on alternative policies.
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat strongly criticised the UPA-2 government which came to power in 2009 with Mamata Banerjee’s help as one which has only multiplied the woes of the common man; rampaging inflation, growing unemployment, massive corruption. The BJP, which was trying to pose itself as an alternative, had the same economic policies. Modi’s Gujarat model, he said, was but a euphemism for large scale ‘loot’ by big corporations, Indian and MNC. Modi stands for ensuring supernormal profits for these companies and will complete the full measure of neo-liberal economic policy. That apart, Karat reminded the people of BJP’s communal agenda and Modi’s active role in the 2002 genocide. The party is therefore working towards creating a non-Cong and non-BJP alternative that will govern the country on an ‘alternative policy’ trajectory. He informed the people of Bengal of the initiative taken by the CPI(M) and the Left parties to bring together non-Congress, non-B J P secular parties. He announced that these parties will meet soon and announce the political programme before the Lok Sabha elections.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said that the Mamata government was insulting the youth of the state, not only increasing unemployment by virtual shut down of industrial development, but being dishonest in advertising creation of new jobs, a trickle actually, like the contractual policemen, which paid less than minimum wage or exhorting them to work for fraudulent companies such as Sharada etc. He accused her of playing with the lives of the Bengali people. He said all work, be it industry or agricultural had come to a standstill. He termed the government as shameless; wasting people’s money for promoting her own face in government sponsored advertisements at an unprecedented scale, every possible media vehicle, every day. He blasted the CM for having a tacit understanding with the communal BJP and exposed Modi’s governance claims. He reminded the people that Gujarat, unlike Bengal, had no record of land reforms and no people’s representation at the grassroots level. It was backward in mass education. He said that the people of Bengal would never accept ‘two laddoos of Modi-Mamata coalition’ that BJP PM hopefully offered.
Left Front chairman and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Biman Bose, reminded the gathering of the promises made by the TMC before the 2009 Loksabha polls and 2011 assembly polls, which were now proved as hollow. All that the CM was interested in was hosting ‘festivals’ at the cost of keeping crores of stomachs hungry. The government and the ruling party were encouraging the growth of anarchy and divisive forces. It was trying to break the unity of the poor and toiling masses, every dissenting voice is being muffled. He urged the people of Bengal to recognise the true face of this ‘dishonest’ political force, which has taken 145 lives of Left workers and leaders so far. She had allowed her ‘naughty’ boys to attack women savagely, with the most heinous cases of rape and murder becoming common place in the state. It was a shame for all Bengalis that the most modern, cultured and safe society of Bengal is now a leader in the country today in atrocities against women. Basu called for resistance to terror with courage.
The leader of the opposition and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Surjyakanta Mishra, electrified the gathering with his warning to the CM to use her ‘eyes & ears’ to listen to the protests of the people of Bengal. He castigated her for the complete lack of democracy in her party, her voice being the only one. As he delivered the charge sheet against the TMC government, the massive crowd roared in approval. He dubbed the government as totalitarian, anti-people, anti-development and corrupt. He exposed the massive growth of per capita debt of Bengal after this party came to power. Rs 55,000 crore had been added in just 30 months. Bengal had gone from being the 13th in per capita debt to being the No.1 in the country. He charged that the CM had bankrupted the state by her ad hoc expenses, most of it on festivals across the state, throughout the year. The new administrative calendar was more of a festival itinerary, having planned 60 in the coming year, one a week. He thundered that the people would no longer allow her to loot the votes like she had done during the panchayat and municipal polls, they would fight back.
Other speakers at the rally included Hafiz Alam Sairani of Forward Bloc, Kshiti Goswami of RSP, Manjukumar Majumdar of CPI, Ratan Mazumdar of DSP, Janmejaya Ojha of SP, Mihir Bain of RCPI, Pratim Chatterjee of MFB, Umesh Choudhury of BBC, Shivnath Sinha of Workers party, Samar Bardhan of Bolshevik party.
The mammoth rally roared in one voice as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said, ‘the voices of the toiling masses of Bengal cannot be stopped; the Red Flag can never be forced to surrender’.